How I gambled over $1 Billion dollars in my 20’s
This blog started when I was 30 years old. I’ve never really talked about what I got up to in my 20’s. It was a crazy decade of my life where I made and spent millions. My 20’s is not a story of how I got rich, but a tale of how giving an idiot unlimited money usually ends with nothing (apart from a heap of great stories and valuable life lessons).
In the early 2000’s the internet was still a baby and the first to use new technology is always porn and gambling. Instead of becoming a porn star, I decided to dip my toes into the online world of gambling. It was the wild west and thanks to new software companies, new casinos were popping up every day. With so many competitors, these casinos had to offer huge incentives to get new customers to sign up and start gambling (Yes, bookmakers copied this strategy).
Now, I’m going to get the dates wrong because it was so long ago, but I’ll try my best.
The first time I took up a casino offer I would have been around 20 years old. I was a full-time uni student and working 2 separate part-time jobs for the University (Web Developer and IT Help-desk). It’s little wonder I failed half my classes in my first year.
It was at Bet365 casino and the offer was deposit £150 and get £150 pounds free. The turnover requirement was 10x the bonus amount and I could play blackjack. This sounded like a good deal, so I loaded up blackjack and started playing £5 hands. I remember going up to about £600 pounds at one stage before going back down to £100. I then did exactly what the casino wanted me to do, and upped my bets and bet like a problem gambler. By pure luck, I managed to turn that £150 deposit into £1000 and withdrew. This was the early 2000’s and the casino was based in the UK. That meant that I had to wait for a cheque to be sent in the mail (which took about a month).
At the time, that was a lot of money (over $2,000 AUD) and when I deposited the cheque I remember thinking that was pretty easy, but it didn’t click at the time. It was a few years later that I had my second bet at an online casino.
Fast forward two years and I am your typical degenerate gambler. I would head out for drinks with friends and we would end up losing all our money on the pokies. Once, I won $1,000 on a scratchie for my birthday and the next day I had given it all back to the pokies. I had also discovered Betfair and the Betfair forum.
It was in the forum where I stumbled across a post about taking advantage of the casino offers. It had a bit of maths I sort of understood and I remembered doing a similar offer years before. There was a simple guide on that post which I followed and opened a Neteller account, deposited $150 AUD (£60) and sent it to Ladbrokes. I bet £1 on blackjack and after an hour had completed my turnover with a nice profit which I withdrew back to my Neteller account. I never had to make another deposit again. That initial $150 deposit turned into many many millions.
It all seemed so easy. I signed up to my next casino and my next and on and on. In no time I had turned that $150 into $50,000. I explained how it worked to my cousin and he started doing it as well. Eventually, about 20 of us from the Betfair forum created our own private forum and started sharing all the deals and which casinos were the best to do.
An offer you can’t refuse
The offers at the start were amazing. It was usually a 100 or 200% match bonus. So deposit $1000, get $1000 free and a turnover requirement of 5-10x. There were between 200-500 online casinos at the time.
These evolved over time and larger deposit bonuses were on offer. My largest one was a £3,200 deposit for a £3,200 bonus from 32Red casino.
The dodgier the casino, the bigger the offer.
At the time, the Australian dollar was also very weak against the USD ($1.70) and the GBP ($2.50), making the offers worth so much more.
If you took up a $100 bonus offer and had a 10x turnover requirement, that meant you had to bet $100 x 10 = $1,000 before you could withdraw.
Blackjack, when played perfectly, has a house edge of 0.46%. That means for every $100 you bet, on average you would lose 46 cents.
So if you bet $1,000 you would (on average), lose $4.60.
That would leave you with your initial $100 deposit plus $95.40 profit from the bonus money.
Blackjack, Video Poker, Automation, Slots
For the first few years, I manually played blackjack for millions and millions of hands. I knew that chart off by heart (and still do).
Then a programmer created a bot that would automatically play perfect blackjack strategy for almost all of the casinos out there. It was just a case of setting up the casino, inputting the amount to bet and the turnover and coming back after a few hours to see the final result.
As time went on, the casino offers got progressively worse. First, they simply increased the turnover requirement, then they took away certain types of games. I went from Blackjack to Video Poker to Roulette to Craps to War to Carribean Stud Poker to a heap of other games before ending up with only slots.
Eventually, the only game you were allowed to turn over on were slots. Most slot machines have a house edge of between 2-5%. So the offers were still profitable, but nowhere near what they were when we were allowed to play Blackjack or other table games.
Our private forum was still going strong and a member found a huge flaw in how the casinos counted turnover. He figured out that the double-up feature counted towards the turnover. So while the house edge might have been 2%, we could bring that down drastically by always doubling up any wins. The double-up feature was a pure 50/50 chance and zero house edge. So while we increased variance dramatically, we decreased the house edge massively.
$1 billion dollars
So how did I manage to gambler over 1 billion dollars?
The golden age of casino whoring lasted about 5 years. I took full advantage of those 5 years and a few extra years after.
Each morning I would wake up and get started. On average I would look to deposit about $5,000 and get $5,000 in bonus money. The average turnover was about 60x on deposit and bonus.
So $10,000.00 x 60 = $600,000.00 in turnover per day.
After my first year of learning the ropes, I would bet around $50 per hand on BJ and play 5 hands at a time.
It would take about 10 seconds to complete a hand ($250).
That works out to $1,500 turnover per minute and $90,000 per hour.
So a full 6-7 hour day saw me complete the required turnover.
Once the bots came in, my turnover went up, my profits went up and hours spent actually working went way down.
$600,000 x 365 = $219 million per year.
So over the 5 years where I was doing this full time, I turned over at least $1.1 Billion.
How much did I make?
Even in my 20’s I was a nerd and loved spreadsheets. Below are the returns from a normal account. On average each account completed around 250 offers. Because of variance and the amount I was betting, some accounts actually lost money, while some others made many hundreds of thousands.
After getting through my own account, I would “help” friends do it for a 50% fee.
I had moved to the UK for a few years as they had the best offers and the currency difference was massive. After paying the 45% UK tax rate and giving mates 50% of profits, I was clearing between $300-500k per year. I was also spending 95% of whatever I made travelling/partying/pokies/on rent and buying whatever the hell I wanted.
I can’t even begin to start on everything that happened during those years, I’m actually glad social media wasn’t around as looking back would make me sick (and make me look like a real wanker). My feed would look like the rich kids of Instagram account. I’ll share some stories on the blog soon. A few I can think off right now are:
- Losing $500,000.00 in 1 day
- The $5,000 Gym visit
- The $25,000 Blackjack hand
- The Island experiment
- Playing for Australia at a World Cup (in Russia)
I am so thankful I went through that experience at such a young age. The life lessons it taught have stuck with me ever since. I’m also glad that my net worth at 30 was less than $100k as it made me have to figure out how to start again and led me on my financial journey from 30 to 40.
BTW, I was actually small-time compared to some of the others in the private forum. A few of them were a bit older and a lot smarter with money and have been retired for the past 10 years.
What a great story! Thank you for sharing! One question, though: I thought gambling winnings were tax free in the UK? Why did you have to pay 45% taxes?
I believe they are tax-free, but I had to set up a business to deal with the payments. As 1 account might win 100k and the next might lose 10k, so to make sure everyone was paid a fair share I took all the money in and then sent it out. Looking back I should have just let each person withdraw themselves. But I was a young moron and needed the security of knowing I was doing it correctly.
Unreal mate, wow.
I guess these Casinos aren’t worth having another crack at? I wonder what will happen with the law changes in the states..
Great write up, I cant wrap my head around how you spent it all..
Some people are still doing casino offers and making a decent amount. But nothing like it was before. I don’t think you can do them from Australia anymore.
America is going to be a goldmine for bonus chasers, but the bookies have learnt from the past, so while it will be lucrative, it won’t be like the early days.
It’s extremely easy to spend a massive amount of money when you are young and dumb 🙂
Wow. Just reading that blog was a wild ride. I recently got started with matched betting and am starting to get gubbed. So starting to look for other ways to profit. Hopefully I can find something half as profitable as this.
It was like watching myself but on a way smaller scale because I never had the guts to make the step. Overall I was enjoying my high school period as no one I know had 😉 .
I’m a very long time reader of the blog but drifted away from it for about the past 5 years. Good to see you got some good numbers on the board in the 10 years. The story about the NFT stuff is just amazing, but shows what you can do when you open your mind and ultimately, recognise the pattern of “the next big thing” early enough and are also smart enough to take profits.
People just think these things will go up forever but there’s tons of examples of that not being the case.
This really inspired me to make a comment because we are a similar age (I’m 42 as I write this) and have crossed over in many ways doing what you’ve also done.
I’m UK based and started on fruit machines before I was of legal age, I got sick of losing pretty quickly after losing every spare ££ I had and I noticed there was a guy in the arcade who definitely seemed to win more than he lost.
I looked over his shoulder and without it taking too long I went from a net loser to a net winner, in a game where the house edge is 20-30% – it put me through university and I left with a few quid in the bank too. I went on to try professional poker but I had no bankroll management skills and busted out after about 10 months, and went back to a menial bar job and playing machines, which I had moderate success at and won money that was tax free in the UK. It was a rough life though, pubs from opening time, on the feet all day, banned from places, threatened, etc. etc. – never felt long term and stopped being fun. I started playing casino level machines but of course even though you could get an edge, the information was out there and it wasn’t as if you could just go to a big city and expect to clean up in the casinos.
In 2003 I had a car crash and ruptured all the tendons in my ankle – best thing that ever happened to me because online gambling, which until then I’d only really dabbled in (although my brother was a casino scalper) – I was broke but borrowed money and had doubled that before I got on my feet again. I was happy to quit my job and although something much more interesting came up not soon after, I was confident in going into full-time arbitrage.
In a couple of years I was gubbed across the board as were my nearest and dearest, and I started a cash betting operation where they couldn’t ban us effectively – my brother was the greatest operative/placer and I did the trading. Between 2006-2010 we absolutely smashed them, particularly Ladbrokes – but because I’d become obsessed with zero-risk, we made much less money than we could have done (and didn’t even think of placing multis until 2008 onwards, which also cost a lot of profit not banked).
In 2010 the systems changed and bets got limited to 20% of stakes on prices that we wanted, mostly thanks to the famous moneysavingexpert.com epiphany. This destroyed the incentive, my brother went back to uni and took his profits and invested them in property (wise man) and I decided to go full time punting. I ended 2010 with a bang but then lost money in 2011 after considering ops costs and bad debts (I started using commission agents to get on). I also lost money when Pointbet went down, if anyone remembers them.
2011 persuaded me to get out of the game, but at Cheltenham in 2012 I met a few younger, fresher, next gen punters who had no baggage and were clearing 200k+ per year net. I thought if they could do it, so could I – and after I finished a masters degree I’d signed up to, got back in the game about 6 months after that, but this time focusing on casino properly (I had dabbled in 02 and also 2012) – and the bingo sites were in their heyday. Ridiculously I made more in 2014-15 than I’d ever made before and was regularly playing either roulette or bingo (I’d dabbled with the white label blackjack bots before, but that seemed to be dying off). I had a bespoke bot built and that helped to play blackjack with rebates/loss incentives.
As the AML net tightened, and moving any money from or to a bookmaker in the UK got very difficult, the towel eventually went in again in 2019 although I’m proud to say the knowledge of markets that I picked up from the arbitrage days led to developing a successful betfair bot with a brilliant statistician, which we’ve developed over the last 5 years and made some good profits with, volatile but passive stuff so very pleasing.
I don’t think you are ever truly out and I look forward to hearing more about some of the stories above and also how the betting results go! Good luck